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Motif Information
Motif hototogisu 01.jpg
Rōmaji Hototogisu
English Cuckoo
Kanji 時鳥, 子規
Kana ほととぎす
Season Summer
Seasonal Exceptions None
Auspicious Yes
Motif Type Bird

Hototogisu is the lesser cuckoo (Cuculus poliocephalus), a bird native to Japan and much of Asia. Hotogisu mostly eat caterpillars and other insects, but will also eat fruits and berries. They have a distinctive six note call and can be heard calling from trees more often than they are seen.

Hotogisu are fully migratory and only appear in Japan in the summer months. Hotogisu migrate to Sri Lanka and eastern Africa to overwinter.

Like all cuckoo, hotogisu are brood parasites and lay their eggs in other birds' nests in May and June. Hotogisu mostly target warblers and wrens as surrogate parents.

Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings

Hototogisu with fuji and tsuki on hanafuda

Hotogisu are a migratory bird and are only naturally present in Japan in the summer months.

Motif Connotations & Symbolism

The call of the hototogisu, especially when combined poetically with the scent of tachibana, intimates a longing for the past.[1]

Auspicious Nature

Is motif auspicious? If so - explain. If not - remove header.

Common Motif Pairings

Identification & Style Variations

Describe how the pattern can be identified. If applicable, explain how the pattern is conventionally simplified.

Motif Examples

Motif in Literature & Other Usage

Hototogisu on Japanese stamp, issued 1954

Where possible - try to find examples of motif in literature, art and real life. If you are unable to find an example - remove this section.

In Poetry

The eighty-first poem in the Hyakunin Isshu by Tokudaiji Sanesada uses to both hotogisu and the moon lingering in the sky to evoke loneliness.

ほととぎす Hototogisu The cuckoo
鳴きつる方を nakitsuru kata wo when I turn my gaze
ながむれば nagamureba to his call
ただ有明の tada ariake no all that remains
月ぞ残れる tsuki no nokoreru is the early morning moon

Article Notes

Relevant Threads / Discussions

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  1. Allen, Maude Rex. Japanese Art Motives. A. C. McClurg & Company, Great Britain. 1917. p.24.

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